Beyoncé vs. Adele showdown looms at Grammys

Last year, in a move it described as part of a commitment to transparency, the academy did away with its so-called nominations review committees — small groups of music-business insiders who oversaw, and sometimes amended, the Grammys ballot after voters made their initial picks. (Many concluded that it was a committee that prevented the Weeknd from getting even a single nod for his smash “After Hours” album in 2021.)

“I think it’s too early to tell if that transparency is for real,” said a prominent major-label executive, who like others in this story requested anonymity to freely discuss the Grammys. Another exec said doing away with the committees “was a great first step” toward restoring trust in the institution. “It might take a few years to bear out,” this person added, “but I’m willing to be patient.”

Beyond questions about the voting process, the academy has long privileged certain types of music over others, which means Adele definitely stands a chance of beating Beyoncé again for reasons unrelated to any behind-the-scenes conspiracy. “30” upholds plenty of established Grammy values — it’s hand-played, conventionally structured, rooted in personal storytelling — while “Renaissance” takes a more kaleidoscopic approach to a broader narrative about Black and queer history. The latter is also a full-on immersion into dance music, a genre the Grammys have only tentatively embraced.

Indeed, the ceremony’s major categories are shaping up as a kind of wider battle between white singer-songwriter traditionalists and more experimental artists of color. Besides Adele’s and Swift’s LPs, album of the year nominees could include Harry Styles’ “Harry’s House” and “American Heartbreak” by the alt-country troubadour Zach Bryan; besides Beyoncé’s, Lamar’s and Bad Bunny’s, they could include Steve Lacy’s psych-soul “Gemini Rights” and “Motomami” by the Spanish avant-pop explorer Rosalia. (The Weeknd, who vowed to boycott the Grammys in the wake of the “After Hours” kerfuffle, didn’t submit his follow-up, “Dawn FM.” A spokesperson for Drake didn’t respond to a question about whether he submitted his latest, “Honestly, Nevermind.”)

Also in the mix: the chart-topping soundtrack for Disney’s “Encanto,” which would become the first animated-movie soundtrack to be nominated for album of the year since “Beauty and the Beast” in 1993; “Wasteland,” an indie-label success story by the arty R&B singer Brent Faiyaz; and durable projects from proven Grammy faves Lizzo, Silk Sonic and Brandi Carlile.

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